There are many times in our lives when we really want to bring about a change in ourselves or our environment. We want to start eating better, cut out procrastination, de-clutter our homes, start making a greater effort to make friends and be a better friend - the list goes on...
Some of these aspirations and goals stick around for months and years but no work gets done, no progress is observed. Some goals happen eventually, while all the rest don't.
But what about the goals we do achieve? What about the changes that do actually happen? What makes them different?
Let's discuss a key factor that brings about change. Consider this quote:
"Change happens when the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of change."
Yes. Change happens when the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of change.
We so often put change off because of the fear of pain. The anticipated level of pain is obviously different depending on the situation involved. For many daily activities the anticipated pain may be loss of time or even boredom. Mundane tasks get pushed to the side until you can't avoid them anymore.
Here's an example: You might avoid doing your laundry until you realise you've got no clothes to wear out. Then you have to do something. The pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of change.
A different degree of pain is involved with other situations. A person may associate with those who are fake friends for sometime because they are afraid to break off the relationship or stand out. That person may see the unpleasant way those 'friends' treat others behind their back, may be aware of their habitual lying and other such traits, but does not feel a need to separate from them, because it's just easier to hang around.
But when those fake friends start targeting the person in question, guess what? The pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of change. The problem is now close to home, and it stings painfully. They cannot risk further personal harm, so they finally do what they should have done all along.
A student lacks off at school. They would rather have fun and hang around than put in the work they need to get good grades. As a result, their grade percentage slowly decreases as the semester progresses.
They soon realise that they might not pass the class if they do not turn their habits around soon. This causes them concern because they absolutely do not want to retake the class. So they roll their sleeves up and salvage their grade.
Notice that at the beginning, the pain was minimal, but as final grades are approaching and the threat of failure becomes real, something changes. The pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of change.
A few weeks earlier in the term, perhaps the consequences of slacking off weren't that obvious. Picking up a textbook to studying didn't seem worth it because the student's grades were high enough and nothing serious seemed to be on the line.
Understanding the one thing that makes people change is really useful for self-reflection. When you realise that the overwhelming pain of staying the same makes you change, then it moves you to be proactive. It makes you think ahead about the consequences that your inaction will cause later down the line. Change happens when you realise that those undesirable consequences are not far off in the future, but straight down the path you're walking on.
Instead of waiting till the pain and frustration gets really bad, can you do something about the situation now? You can go one step further. Life is more pleasant when you plan and prepare yourself, so that you can get the best results, not just avoid the worst. It's better when you create good results in your life, not just swerve from bad results that have built up from bad choices.
I'd much rather use foresight where I can and set myself up for success than act in desperation, especially when I could have avoided it. Besides, continually chipping away in the right direction is easier than having to make one huge stressful change when you've got no other choice because you've run out of time.
TLDR: It's awesome if you avoid the bad situation, but it's even more awesome if you avoid the bad situation before you have to avoid it.
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